Carolina Panthers facing first big COVID-19 challenge of the season

(Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) Michael Schofield
(Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) Michael Schofield /

3-2. 1 PM ET. FOX. Sunday, Oct 25. 15. Saints -7.5. 3-3. 87

The Carolina Panthers are facing their first big COVID-19 challenge of the 2020 season ahead of their Week 7 game at the New Orleans Saints.

As if taking on the New Orleans Saints on their travels wasn’t bad enough. The Carolina Panthers also have to deal with an extremely disrupted preparation for the contest thanks to the lingering impact COVID-19 is having across the league.

The Carolina Panthers have been incredibly cautious when it comes to safety measures, which has seen very few roster members either coming in contact with someone who has COVID-19, or contracting it themselves. This included a closed-off training camp at Bank of America Stadium before competitive action began and resulted in the organization being relatively virus-free during this time.

Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case now.

The Carolina Panthers have two offensive linemen on the reserve/COVID-19 list

Carolina has lost two offensive linemen to the reserve/COVID-19 list over the last fortnight. Tyler Larsen was told to self-isolate last week and free-agent signing Michael Schofield – who played five special teams snaps in their defeat to the Chicago Bears – is now doing the same.

This has forced the Panthers to get proactive once again, with the team working remotely until the situation is cleared up either way. Head coach Matt Rhule has told his staff and players to watch the film from Sunday’s loss with no distractions and is hoping the roster can get back in the building as early as tomorrow (Wednesday).

"“I told our staff take this time with no distractions to go back and really watch yesterday’s game, watch the weeks before. Let’s find a way to improve In the areas where we haven’t played well. So provided that we’re back in there on Wednesday, I’m hoping there will be just some time for some introspection.”"

That might be dependent on what happens next. It was foolish to think that Carolina would be exempt from health concerns in the current climate. But they should be credited for having fewer complications than most.

This is the second time in as many weeks that the team has been forced to go virtual, which was down to Falcons rookie Marlon Davidson receiving a positive test just a day removed from playing against the Panthers.

Not exactly ideal preparation ahead of a crucial NFC South divisional matchup.

The Saints are also coming off their bye week, so they are going to be prepared and raring to go in Week 7. This has already put Carolina on the back foot and any further time away from their usual routine later this week would only hamper their chances of gaining an unlikely victory in New Orleans.

Hopefully, the Panthers can get back to their normal team activities at the earliest possible opportunity. But one only has to look at the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots to see how a couple of cases can turn into multiple infections.

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Carolina’s handling of this COVID-19 situation has been nothing short of exemplary.  Long may this continue, but it is a situation that is worth keeping a close eye on in the coming days.